Summary: A Thanksgiving (Sanctification) sermon which explores what it really means to be thankful for Jesus’ salvation in your...growing your character to be more Christ-like
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ! Many times you will hear ministers begin their sermons with these same words that Apostle Paul uses to open his various letters we find in the New Testament. Have you ever wondered why? Because all of us—as ministers of the Good News of the Salvation found in Jesus Christ—have received an important job…a call if you will…from Jesus to pronounce His Gospel to the world, just like Paul did in the book of Acts, and as we read today in our Epistle reading from 1 Thessalonians. And as we approach Thanksgiving this year, I think it is especially important that we study and understand exactly what God’s Grace means to each of us and how we can find real peace in our lives through the absolute power of God’s magnificent Grace.
When I think back on Thanksgivings past in my own life, especially those of my childhood, I often think of a special day each November where our extended family—mom, dad, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends gathered together for a full day of fun and feasting together. As a child growing up in Sacramento, I recall most Thanksgiving days as being overcast and cold outside, maybe even raining. Inside the house, however, it was warm from a combination of the oven that was roasting our turkey combined with the heat from the fireplace. Mmmmm…it smelled great! I can still remember the smell of the turkey roasting, the smell of the smoke from the fireplace, the smell of the all the other yummy foods cooking on top of the stove. Of course, before it was time to eat, we children were usually outside in the cold enjoying a day off from school, where we could play together. We had cousins that we saw only a few times a year, such as Easter and of course Thanksgiving. But of course, a typical cold November Thanksgiving Day was hardly going to keep us from being outside playing together…especially since we might have not seen one another since the past Easter. In fact, I doubt any of us children even noticed the temperature.
As I became a young adult, I did come to understand what a charmed life I had had, growing up in middle-class America. I came to understand that there were many people that did not have wonderful Thanksgiving such as we did in our family. I wondered, why was I so lucky? I don’t mean just great Thanksgiving days—but every day of my life seems charmed when compared with much of the poverty we see in America every day and around the world for that matter. So then I asked myself, “Why me?” “Are those who have less in this world not as good as I am?”
And so it also is with the Grace of God. So let me define Grace as it pertains to our eternal salvation. To my children, grace is those words we say before they are allowed to eat their supper. But the Grace I am speaking about today is the complete unmerited forgiveness of sins each and every one of us believers receives from our God for purely through our faith in Jesus. Our faith is the “receiver,” if you will, of God’s complete forgiveness of his children…and not through any merit or work on our part, but based completely…100%…on the work of Jesus on the cross. Martin Luther put it quite distinctly when he said, “Scripture teaches that we are justified before God through faith in Christ.”
One of the important lessons we learn from Luke in the Book of Acts is that the Good News of Jesus Christ was to be taken to the Jews first—before it was to be taken to the Gentiles. The Hebrews were, after all, God’s “chosen people.” And since God had promised to send a Messiah to His chosen people, the Good News of Jesus was to be taught to Jews first. And once they either accepted it or rejected it, the Apostle Paul was then free to take the message to the rest of the world. You see, this does not mean that Israel was more important than the rest of the world to God; in fact, by God’s plan, the Jews were to receive the Gospel first to give them the opportunity to take it to the rest of the world. God wants the Good News of Jesus to be preached to every living soul. But because most of the Jews at that time rejected it, God directed the Apostle Paul to take the Gospel himself then to the Gentiles so that the early church could grow. No one group was better than the other in God’s eyes; they are all part of His Plan. And so it is with people who have more—or less—“things” today. We are all His children. Our God is in an infinite God and there are things we just cannot comprehend. That includes why some people are more materially or financially blessed than others. But the earthly material “things” we have are just that…”things.” That old expression, “You can’t take it with you” rings so true because what does matter to God is what we feel in our hearts…not the “things” we have or the outward appearances we show. God knows each and every one of us. And He knows how very imperfect each of us is. That’s why God sent his only Son to die for us, so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. And that brings me back again to the discussion of the Grace and Peace we find through our Faith in Jesus Christ.